Galen and Donna Zajicek have been living an organic lifestyle since 1989, the same year Galen built, wired and plumbed their A-frame home in Marquette, installing an all-wood spa-style shower.

Galen and Donna Zajicek have been living an organic lifestyle since 1989, the same year Galen built, wired and plumbed their A-frame home in Marquette, installing an all-wood spa-style shower.
Their motivation wasn’t saving the earth, although Donna said she was interested in going organic before that time.
“Then Galen got sick, and he got on the bandwagon pretty quickly after that,” she said.
Galen, who had worked with chemicals in his job at a Nebraska co-op elevator, had developed a life-threatening allergy to all chemicals. Detergent in his clothes stung him uncomfortably; excruciating headaches and dizziness from breathing in chemicals or eating foods with chemicals would lead to mental incoherence and could have resulted in death.
“There’s no cure for an allergy to chemicals,” Donna said. “We just had to keep him away from them.”
The couple began reading literature about living a chemical-free lifestyle. As they got the hang of it, they realized that for them, “It’s simple to be organic.”
Those who see it as an impossible task note the negatives, the “you cant” list: no off-the-shelf products except those specifically marked ‘organic;’ no insecticides unless they are organically made; no chemical fertilizers; no seeds unless they are heirloom.
“Even seeds are sprayed with chemicals before they are packaged,” Donna said. “They don’t want weeds mixed into the seed packets.”
Galen went to chemical school annually for four years as a part of his job, so he knows a thing or two about them.
Galen’s standard answer to a world of chemicals is to create things himself wherever possible. “Everything I plant is heirloom,” he said. He buys heirloom seeds at Bakers Seed Company, Mansfield, Missouri, and also retains his own.
The Zajiceks have found several over-the-counter organic supplies: ECOS brand laundry soap, found at Dillons, is coconut-based; planet dishwashing liquid is plant and mineral-based; Tom’s is the bath soap they use.
“It’s not cheap,” Galen said of buying all-organic. “But it’s worth it.”
Gale is 71 and on no medications, with a good blood pressure rate and no heart issues. Donna, who suffers from asthma and bronchitis, said her lung capacity has gone from 20 percent to 99 percent in the past two decades. She credits the improvement to their lack of chemicals.
For fresh fruits and vegetables, the couple buy all organic until their crops come in. Donna also cans.
“Store-canned food is the worst for chemical levels,” she said.
They grow a huge garden as well as raise chickens and ducks. They fish a lot, always catching their limit.
“We prefer going to Maxwell Lake,” Galen said, “because of the many springs there. The water keeps fresher, and there’s not near as much chemical runoff as at other nearby lakes.”
Galen makes his own lures, so “nothing is wasted.”
Neighbors are understanding, if not complicit. A neighbor who crop dusts lets the couple know a few days ahead so that they can leave town while he’s spraying above their home, on the edge of town and near fields. He has also cut the potency of the chemicals he sprays.
The Zajiceks’ garden is immense, robust, varied and lush. There is no evidence of bugs, no holes in leaves or sickly plants. Tall, flowering onions encircle a peach tree to keep away worms that would otherwise snack on the wood and kill the tree; a bug zapper stands sentinel in the center of the garden, killing insects at night.
“It does the trick,” Donna said. “My corn was perfect last year.”
This is their second year with the zapper. They have in the past, and still do to a lesser degree, hand-picked off bugs. They offered recipes for organic sprays for different varieties of bugs they have used.
“But the temperature should be under 50 degrees,” Donna said. “People don’t realize that if the temperature is up, the spray turns to gas, and it’s completely unaffective.”
They read as much information as they can find about how to live without chemicals. The “Mother Earth News” is their go-to guide, always full of ideas they can put to good use.
“Those guys know what they’re talking about,” Galen said.
The couple tries to beat the cycles of the bugs, planting early. Their corn is already tassling, so it won’t cross-pollenate with neighbors’ who are using pesticides. They use blankets to veer off frost and walls of water for tomatoes.
Galen grafts his own trees, displaying one apple tree that is growing 10 different varieties of apples. He maintains apple, pear, Asian pear, plum and cherry trees and has given many of his trees away.
“I haven’t bought a fruit tree in years,” he said.
“You can beat nature,” Donna said.
She sprinkles flour on her cabbage to keep grasshoppers and other bugs away. They plant some seeds in November, cracking them open and planting the meal inside. They feed any dandelions, and there aren’t many, to their chickens.
The Zajiceks clearly enjoy seeing how much they can do for themselves while thoroughly enjoying life. The house has an electric heater and baseboard heaters, yet for the past eight years all their heat has come from burning wood. The woodpiles are plentiful, stacked neatly in outbuildings Galen built, with painted murals of hummingbirds on the outside walls.
The couple goes camping and boating in a camper and wooden boat Galen made himself years ago.
Not only do they have enough to eat, living an organic lifestyle, but they have an abundance thoughtfully shared with family and friends. Fish, eggs, produce, fragrant heirloom roses and other flowers that adorn their home: all this speaks of an organic lifestyle that seems to work for this couple.
“We enjoy giving from what we have,” Donna said.
They made the city’s business district Christmas decorations out of lawn chairs found in the dump. The city only paid for the lights.
“Galen likes to make something out of nothing,” Donna said.